Placed to command a view of the harbor and the islands beyond, the Mission stands as a monument to the God it venerates and the people who built it. The Mission we see today is the third set of structures that has occupied this site. The first church was a temporary wood structure while the second one (an adobe) was severely damaged in the earthquake of 1812. This is the only mission in continuous use from its inception and is often referred to as the “Queen of the Missions.” The Mission brought Western civilization to the Chumash who had occupied Santa Barbara for 12,000 years. Along with the great advances in culture, religion and education that the Missionaries brought, there were diseases that the indigenous people’s immune system could not fight, and within 50 years the native population had been reduced to 10% of its pre-Missionary population.

The Mission is both a place for outreach to the public, and contemplation for the resident monks. As such, it is organized around a private courtyard which is used for prayer and meditation. The surrounding buildings contain the Church Offices, sleeping quarters, and the Church (nave) itself. The Mission is composed of a stately façade crowned with two bell towers. A covered walkway extends to the left and visually grounds the building. This simple composition reflects the time of building and the honest approach that the Franciscan Monks employ in their daily lives.